Why Walmart is winning
The other day, I did something I haven’t done, ever.
I bought something on Walmart.com instead of Amazon.com.
I did this because I was in a grocery store, and the price on the shampoo I normally buy seemed high. I whipped out my phone, tapped on the Amazon app, and scanned the bar code on the shampoo bottle. The shampoo was cheaper on Amazon but there were many (too many) listings for the shampoo, in different sizes and scents, from myriad third-party sellers, and I couldn’t decide which one to buy. As happens on Amazon.com lately, I was overwhelmed and confused by the choices.
So I said to myself: Let me try Walmart.
Still standing in the personal care aisle of the grocery store, I downloaded the Walmart app, opened it, did a search, and there was my shampoo, in the right size and scent, at $2 less than the price on the shelf right in front of me. I clicked “buy” on the Walmart app and left the store.
I drove home thinking, “Well, I hope this goes well. I don’t need the shampoo immediately, but I will need it this week when my old bottle runs out. So I hope Walmart has its act together on shipping the way Amazon does.”
What happened next was amazing.
Walmart delivered the shampoo to my house the next day, even though the app said it would take at least five days for the order to arrive. What did this experience do for me? The next time I need to buy something online, I will tap on the Walmart app first, and maybe even forget that I’m paying Amazon more than $100 a year to be a Prime member.
I’m pretty sure that my impressive experience with Walmart.com is a big reason why Walmart reported first-quarter earnings on Thursday that blew analysts’ expectations out of the water.
Walmart’s multi-year investments in technology, supply chain and private brands appear to be finally paying off, as same store sales rose 3.4% in the quarter ended April 26, while Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew 37%. The company attributed its sales growth to its improved websites, grocery programs such as Pickup, and its growing private brand assortments. Meanwhile the retailer just this week announced it is starting to roll out next-day delivery across the country for more than 200,000 items.
“We're changing to enable more innovation, speed and productivity, and we're seeing it in our results,” CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement Thursday. “We're especially pleased with the combination of comparable sales growth from stores and e-commerce in the U.S.”
Judging from my Walmart.com experience, I’d say McMillon is right on the money, and Walmart is (finally) on track to becoming a formidable e-commerce competitor to Amazon.